Trade Board recants on Auto Channel licence
Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter
Trade Board Limited rescinded its earlier decision and has now recertified used car dealership Auto Channel Limited, but declined to say what corrective actions were taken to warrant the switch, which happened a week ago.
The Trade Board had earlier cited Auto Channel for breaches of Section 9.1 of the Motor Vehicle Import Policy (MVIP), which deals with fit and proper tests, consumer protection and compliance with trade laws, and advised the dealer on October 27 that its permit would not be renewed.
It recanted more than a month later following the intervention of the Minister of Industry Investment and Commerce, Anthony Hylton, and after Auto Channel's lawyers challenged the decision.
Trade Board Chairman Bentham Hussey confirmed the recertification.
Asked what steps he took towards compliance, Auto Channel owner Lynvalle Hamilton said he merely impressed on the Trade Board that his company had committed no infractions.
"We didn't do anything differently. We were never in breach," said Hamilton.
"Our attorneys conveyed what we had been trying to say to them all along, but somehow they understood the attorneys more than they did us," Hamilton said.
His lawyers from Hart Muirhead Fatta Attorneys-at-Law had argued in a letter dated November 10 that the Trade Board did not have the legal authority to deny Auto Channel's permit, saying the MVIP was a policy and not a law, and that only the minister could make such a determination under the Trade Act.
The rollback of the decision was not unexpected. Both the CEO of the Trade Board, Victor Cummings, and Hamilton had told Wednesday Business on November 20 that they were moving to mend fences, following a meeting convened by Minister Hylton earlier that day.
On Friday, December 5, Hamilton also said the eight vehicles he was barred by the Customs Department from clearing from the wharf were also released to him.
"Everything is okay. We can clear our vehicles and we can operate just the same as we used to. Everything is back to normal," he said.
"Based on how they dealt with it, I decided not to pursue legal action against them."
The Trade Board has never clarified the precise breach for which Auto Channel was cited for under Section 9.1.
The used car dealer, however, maintains that his company was never in breach, while citing a November 5 letter from the Consumer Affairs Commission, which indicated that that agency had no complaints under probe.
The Trade Board, meantime, says the Auto Channel case will not lead to changes in the revised MVIP, which has been in force since April 2014. The agency told Wednesday Business that all dealers are expected to comply with the provisions following another sensitisation meeting last Friday, during which dealers labelled the policy as burdensome and unfair.
Issues were raised, for example, about the warranty that must now be offered to customers as well as model year determination, which will be determined by the Trade Board and the Island Traffic Authority.
Both Cummings and Hussey said the dealers' concerns will be reported to the commerce minister for a final determination, but they also advised the meeting that until then, the current provisions stand.
"The policy was tabled in Parliament and it is still in effect. What we will do is, a report will be submitted to the ministry [for] the ministry's decision," Cummings told the dealers at the meeting late Friday evening.